Being an artist is the most amazing thing you can do. You get to create something from nothing and share it with the world.
Being an artist is also one of the hardest things you can do, because when you share your art with the world, you are sure to receive rejection along the way.
The more you put your art, and your self out there, the more likely you are to find success. But for every “yes” you hear, you will hear “no” five or ten or twenty times more often.
As an artist, you have to develop a thick skin. You have to be willing to put yourself out there, again and again, believing you can get the “yes” but being ready to hear the “no.”
And you know what? It gets both easier and harder with each “yes,” at least for me. A “yes” tends to make me forget, for a brief period of, all of the “no” I normally receive. I forget how much amazing art there is out there, and how small my chances really are for any single “yes.”
Last weekend, I had an opportunity that really solidified the reality of being an artist today. I went to a jury preview event for Art in the High Desert, an art fair held every August in Bend, Oregon. They showed every single one of the 616 applicants for the 110 spots in the fair.
Stop and think about that for a moment. That’s a 1 in 6 chance of getting in. And it’s even worse, depending on your category. Thank goodness I’m not a jeweler. There were 122 applicants for 12-13 booths. That’s 1 in 10 for them.
The thing that hit home most from this event was not what I expected. I expected to learn how images show up in the Zapp jurying system, how a group of images works together, and how the booth shot affects the application. Yeah, I got all of that.
But the most impactful thing? Seeing how darn good all of the art was. I don’t remember thinking, “Wow, that art doesn’t belong here.” I remember seeing a lot of wonderful, high quality work. Enough to fill almost 6 shows of 110 booths each.
Which made me realize… This is probably how everything is in the art world. There are way more great artists than spaces for every art fair or exhibition or grant we apply for. A “no” from any one thing is not necessarily a rejection of me or my work. There is a lot of great work out there. More every day, as all of us artists continue to create and grow and new artists join our ranks. Add to that the subjective nature of a jury selection process, and you start to see the landscape artists have to operate in.
It also made me realize how precious those “yes” answers are. How hard to come by they can really be. Looking at it from this angle, with a better understanding of how competitive the field is, I realize how lucky I’ve been to get as many “yes” answers as I have in the relatively short time I’ve been putting my art out there.
All I can do as an artist is continue to focus on creating my best work. Continue to grow in my craft, develop my own style, and learn to present myself in the best way possible.
And then I have to put my work and myself out there.
If you are an artist, remember this. Don’t let a single “no” stop you. It’s going to happen more often than not, as an inevitable stop on the path to the “yes.”